As many communities do, the village of Washington Park, Illinois, holds an annual tree-lighting ceremony in honor of Christmas.
For the third year in a row, though, the south Chicago suburb’s event has faced a setback.
In 2019, a driver mowed down the display. In 2020, someone ripped the banner down. After Christmas that same year, the tree was set on fire, according to Block Club Chicago.
— Mack Liederman (@mack_liederman) December 4, 2021
This year, in between the official lighting that took place on Saturday night and the following morning, the 30-foot tree was set on fire by an unidentified person.
Earlier Saturday afternoon, community volunteers who were helping with holiday decorations were also the victims of theft, adding to the chaos in what was further reported by Fox 32 Chicago WFLD-TV.
“The women told investigators they were decorating a fence on Saturday afternoon in Bronzeville when a group of people got out of a white SUV and took their wallets and purses, then took off,” according to the report.
While questions lingered about the intention and source of the fire, surveillance footage obtained by Block Club Chicago from a nearby store indicates the tree was deliberately targeted.
A few seconds into the clip, a silhouette of an individual can be seen moving toward the tree. Several minutes later, a flicker of fire appears.
At 3:03, the flames then become visible.
Chicago police were notified of the fire around 5 a.m. on Sunday. The tree was removed on Monday.
One of the My Block, My Hood, My City community organizers, Jahmal Cole, said, “It’s unfortunate that an event that was supposed to bring the community together resulted in the burning of a beautiful tree.”
He added, “While it is a setback it’s not going to stop us from beautifying the community through the holiday season.”
The group plans to continue spreading good cheer by decorating homes in the upcoming days.
The Chicago Chamber of Commerce said the city is also involved and intends to help replace the tree this weekend.
An investigation is still underway and a suspect responsible for the arson has yet to be determined.